What do you think of me?

I was looking for an introduction to the problem many businesses stumble over in drafting proposal or tender responses, when I came across the following story by Value-Based Business Development Coach Bob Musial.

“My boss and I were escorted into the conference room. We waited for the Procurement Manager. It was a prospecting call on a pharmaceutical company. And while vendors could still go directly to people on both the promotional side and the clinical side, we were strongly encouraged to go through procurement first.

OK. No problem.

Anyway, the Procurement Manager arrived after a few minutes. She introduced herself and sat down.  That’s when my boss launched into his “pitch.”


It was all about the company, our products, our client list, his experience (mostly his experience) and a bunch of other stuff that I tuned out after about the first 10 minutes. I watched as the procurement manager’s eyes glazed over. Looked like she had tuned him out too.

There was a break in my boss’s self-aggrandizement about five minutes later. The procurement manager saw her chance and jumped on it. She used that very brief lull, turned to me and said...

“Don’t you have anything to say?”

To which I replied...”I like to listen first before I start talking. Figure I might learn something.”
She laughed and we had an instant connection. One that lasted and generated business for years.

A long time ago I learned it was more important to encourage others to speak first, especially a client or prospect. To let them empty their brain of whatever was occupying their thoughts. Then, I could refill it with appropriate responses.

Seems like my (ex-) boss never grasped that whole listening concept thing.”

OK, this anecdote is about a sales pitch, but you would be well aware that responding to a Request for Tender (RFT) or Request for Proposal (RFP) is a “sales opportunity”, except that the pitch is in writing, not face-to-face. But without a well-written response you won’t get to that face-to-face meeting.

And here is the problem!

The opening section of your response is usually the Executive Summary. You need to draft a compelling Executive Summary so that the Assessor wants to read more. The Executive Summary is among the most important part of your response, and often the only section read by all Assessors.

But so often tender responses open with a trumpet blast – about themselves, just like Bob’s boss. How good they are, unique in fact, world’s best practice, latest technology, leading practitioners and on and on. But that is not what the Assessors want to see.

What the Assessors want to see is that you understand their requirement and the problem they are trying to solve. And they want to know right from the time they start reading your tender that you are singing their song.

It is an unfortunate fact that the majority of responses, even from large companies, begin with their song, not the clients. A friend who was a retired senior Army office and often had to evaluate defence tenders once told me that his eyes would begin to glaze over with the umpteenth rendition of a ME-ME response – leading with themselves from the opening paragraph.

Your response will stand out from the competition if you open with the agency’s requirements. Sing the Assessor’s song and bring a smile to their faces.

Demonstrate to the Assessors upfront that you understand what they are trying to achieve, and only then that you have a solution to their problem. Show that you understand the outcome the RFT or RFP is designed to achieve. They are not buying your product or service as such. They are buying what that product or service will do for them.
You will create a favourable impression in the Assessors mind if you are able to demonstrate a depth of understanding of their requirements in your opening paragraph. That means researching the background to the requirement and what lead up to it.

An example - we won a nationwide tender from a Commonwealth agency for my wife’s conference and event management business in part because we were the only tenderer to research the background to the requirement and what the client was seeking to achieve. And that is what we opened with – them, not us.

Only once you have demonstrated your understanding of what they are seeking to achieve, and their problem (talking about them), should you start talking about yourself, demonstrate you have the solution, how you will deliver it, and why you are different/better. Now you can present your compelling case. That is when you will find out what they think of you.

Would you like to talk about yourself?

Would it surprise you that I’m working on a new online course to help people win more tenders? My course will help you learn how to submit well presented, persuasive responses so that you win more tenders, without stress or feeling under pressure.

You will discover responding to tenders is no longer a complex, unclear burden, nor costly and demanding. You will learn how to prepare for, analyse and persuasively respond to tender requirements. Winning more tenders will take the stress out of your life.

The course will be around 8 weeks, with a new module each week delivered on-line, followed by a face-to-face webinar towards the end of each week to discuss participants’ questions and learnings from each module. Participants will build their skills step by step, reinforcing their learning.

We’ll be doing practical exercises based on your real-life experience with tender responses, identifying and working on the opportunities for improvement. Activities will be based on a Case Study. Where possible, participants will be asked to utilise an unsuccessful tender they have submitted. For those who have not yet submitted a tender, I will supply a real RFT, with some appropriate alterations.

If you would like to discuss if this is a good fit for you, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Discuss TenderWins” in the subject line, and I’ll set up a telephone or Skype call. If I can’t help, I will suggest someone who can.